Column: A ‘thank you’ to the arts during COVID-19 – The Daily Tar Heel

After a year of constantly being bombarded with news about coronavirus, the desire to escape the pandemic and focus on anything else is at an all-time high. However, one severely under-appreciated hero throughout the past year has consistently come to our rescue against COVID-19 fatigue. 

Artists of many regards have consistently provided us with the means to help cope and process this difficult year. 

Musical artists have met the demands of the public in providing music specifically targeted to relieve COVID-related stress and fatigue. An emphasis on releasing upbeat or “happy” music has been trending within the music industry for the past year, and even artists known for their somber, almost angsty, tunes have been releasing more lighthearted albums, such as Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” and Lorde’s “Solar Power.” 

Music has a profound effect on us. For example, researchers from Stanford University found that listening to music can have a similar effect as medication does in its alteration of brain function. 

So although we may not realize it, the music we’ve been listening to through the past year (particularly this happier, upbeat music) may have been reducing our anxiety and keeping us healthy in more ways than one.

Film and television is another artistic outlet that has helped us cope with the pandemic. Our increased reliance on entertainment is evident by the fact that Netflix gained 10 million more subscribers in the second quarter of 2020. 

Cinema provides us with the means to momentarily remove ourselves from a situation and enjoy something separate from our own lives, relieving COVID-19 fatigue. Despite the pandemic having drastically negative effects on the performing arts, our need for them is evident in our exponentially high clicks and views. 

When one thinks of heroes within the pandemic, they likely don’t put artists near the top of their list. And while the arts haven’t gotten us through the pandemic in the same way that medical professionals have, they have kept us healthy in their own way.

Our capitalistic society encourages us to value occupations that drive the economy, which we frequently assume to be STEM professions. Thus, work in the arts is all-too-often looked down on, and under-valued. 

The reality is that the arts have a profound and indispensable impact on our lives. 

So, here is a thank you to all of the artists who made living through COVID-19 bearable. And thank you to all of the students studying the professions which will continue to help us navigate the various socio-political challenges we will face in the future.

@dthopinion

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